Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar speaking to the press.
Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has defended the government’s use of the travel health visa saying it has “worked well” for the country.
Speaking to reporters yesterday outside of the Churchill Building, the minister said the visa was an important tool in keeping the country’s COVID-19 numbers low.
In recent days, the Progressive Liberal Party has fiercely criticised the travel visa. Should it become the next government, the PLP has said the health visa protocol would be removed immediately.
In the meantime, the PLP has called for visa accounting to be made public, adding the country should only require negative COVID-19 tests for travel.
In response, Mr D’Aguilar said yesterday the country has done a good job in keeping virus numbers down.
He said: “The genesis of the health visa was to implement the protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and it’s incredible to me that the opposition would think that somehow an airline could do this better than we have done.
“So, remember with the health visa, we check for four things: is it the right test with the right result, within the right time period, vetted by an accredited lab.
“Now if you expect someone at the check-in counter to be able to do that then you’re crazy.
“It has worked very well for us. As you can see the numbers are bouncing back. The numbers are very robust. Atlantis was at 90 percent, Baha Mar was at 75/80 percent and we’ve been keeping the COVID numbers low. So, this has contributed to the successful rebound of tourism.
“It has helped us to keep our COVID numbers low while bringing large amounts of visitors into the country.”
He added: “I think it was the right decision to implement that visa.”
Asked how much longer the country would continue to use the health visa, the minister said this was dependent on the advice of health officials as they were the ones requiring either a PCR test or vaccination for visitors.
The visa, he said, was the “only” way to validate the COVID-19 status of visitors.
He suggested that use of the visa has set The Bahamas apart from other countries who still require a two-week quarantine or prohibit areas from visitors.